Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Massive Protest Against Killer Asbestos Plant in Bihar


Mr Arindam Sengupta
Executive Editor
The Times of India
New Delhi

Subject-Massive Protest Against Killer Asbestos Plant in Bihar


Apropos “Asbestos firm cries foul over 'protests'” (The Times of India, Patna, Jan 5, 2011), World Health Organisation (WHO) says, "currently about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace. As per its estimates, more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposures. One in every three deaths from occupational cancer is estimated to be caused by asbestos. In addition, it is estimated that several thousands of deaths can be attributed annually to exposure to asbestos in the living environment."

Unpardonable callousness on the part of Bihar government in the matter of proposed asbestos plant is facing bitter resistance by the villagers. The agitation has huge potential to become Bihar's Singur if the plant is not stopped. There has been firing on non-violent protesters on 13th December and on 9th December when a team of doctors visited the village at the behest of a Patna based Nagrik Forum to hear the health concerns of the villagers, the villagers were lathicharged. In protest, the villagers are sitting on Dharna. The photograph of the agitating villagers is attached.

What is poisonous in 52 countries cannot become non-poisonous in India. Human biology is the same everywhere.

Canada which is one of the bigger suppliers of asbestos has decontaminated its parliament and has adopted a no home use policy. Why should villagers Chainpur-Bishunpur in Muzaffarpur, Bihar be exposed to killer fibers of asbestos. On 30th December, Turkey has joined the group of countries that have banned trade and use of asbestos of all kinds.

Kerala Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has ruled that exposing Indians to asbestos is a human rights violation. This paves the way for the eventual complete ban on asbestos and its products. On January 31, 2009, the KHRC ruled that the government should take steps to phase out asbestos roofing from all schools in the state.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has passed an order recommending that the asbestos sheets roofing be replaced with roofing made up of some other material. The Annual Report of NHRC 2003-2004 refers to a Report entitled “Asbestos – Health and Environment – an in-depth Study” submitted by the Institute of Public Health Engineers, India. NHRC is currently examining an application to make our country asbestos free at the earliest.

Even if one asbestos fibre reaches the right place, it causes irreversible damage - leading to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma. On August 18, 2003, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, the then Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare informed the Parliament "…long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma."

Asbestos is not deemed safe even by Government of India that's why is asbestos mining is banned in India. Some 52 countries has banned asbestos. In 2006 alone there were more than 1,000 mesothelioma deaths (asbestos related fatal disease) in Japan. In US 10, 000 people are dying of asbestos disease.

Balmukund asbestos company got clearance by misleading Central Pollution Control Board saying the site of the plant is a 'barren' land in its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report although its a fertile land. It has been pointed out since May 2010 that this company has violated all the relevant provisions of the EIA Notification, 2006. The Union Environment Ministry has been apprised of the situation and it is learnt that they are in the process of initiating action against the company.

When Mr S S Ahluwalia, former member, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment & Forests was briefed on 7th January, he was surprised to note that India as a country still uses asbestos despite knowing that almost all the developed countries have banned it. He promised to raise the issue of the proposed asbestos plant in Bihar at his party's national executive meeting underway in Guwahati. A letter to this effect has been sent to Dr C P Thakur, former, Union Health Minister and Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Chemicals and Fertilizers as well. Almost all the MPs from Bihar has been apprised of the imminent public health crisis due to asbestos plants proposed in Bhojpur, Vaishali and Muzaffarpur.

Such hazardous plants should not be allowed even on non-agricultural lands and plans must be urgently made to decontaminate existing asbestos laden buildings in Bihar and elsewhere.

For more details see:

Gopal Krishna
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
New Delhi
Mb: 09818089660, 07739308480

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